Family Issues

To meet the challenges of caregiving, it is important to be close to the person who has Alzheimer’s Disease and at the same time distant from the disease itself and the changes it brings. Sometimes it is hard to separate the person from the illness. It helps to focus on the special characteristics of each individual. Enjoying the personality of your elder and keeping in mind their preferences can help you maintain a positive attitude.

Develop a healthy amount of emotional distance, remembering that the carereceiver is not responsible for the changes in his or her health. Emotional distance means being more objective, setting your personal needs and feeling briefly aside to focus on a specific task. Emotional distance is especially helpful during difficult tasks such as bathing and toileting.

Finding someone to listen after you have gone through a difficult experience will reaffirm that you have good skills, showed good judgement and overcame a difficult challenge. If you are the listener, remind the other person that he or she is a valued caregiver and an important person to the elder. Talking it out will reduce some of the built up stress and fatigue that go along with caregiving. Support from a sympathetic listener energizes both people.

Listen to your elder and try to involve them in conversations about their care, interests, objects in the room, anything or anyone nearby or their past memories. Share humor. Interacting with people while providing their care brightens and restores both the caregiver and the carereceiver.

Common Family Issues

Most families want to keep their ill relative at home for as long as possible. They often view placement in a nursing home or other extended care facility as a "failure," and feel guilty because of it. Guilt makes them angry and embarrassed, and sometimes these feelings can affect their dealings with professional caregivers. The certified staff at a facility can help you find the support you need to feel more comfortable with your decision. A number of other factors can also come into play:

Immature Promises

Sometimes a married couple during their middle age years may promise each other that they will never put the other into a nursing home. Promises like these are usually made when they are young, strong and coping well with minor health problems such as an ulcer or slightly high blood pressure. These promises are unrealistic because they don’t consider the breadth of demands involved in full-time caregiving. They need to be evaluated in terms of common sense and what is best for the whole family.


Family members may feel trapped and alone in providing care. Sometimes handling their own household plus the additional expenses of caring for an ill person become overwhelming. Other relatives may stop visiting or telephoning to avoid facing the load of responsibility. It may be hard for relatives and friends to face deterioration in those whom they love, so they stay away. Take advantage of respite care options offered by local Alzheimer’s Associations, adult day care facilities, senior centers or religious organizations.

Family Conflicts

There may be long-standing conflicts in the family, unresolved issues from years ago. These issues may carry strong feelings that ignite every interaction within the family. These intense feelings may also tinge interactions between the family and other people (such as professional caregivers at a facility or a home health aide).

Missing Skills

Family members may never have learned how to work well together. They may not feel comfortable in each other’s presence. Individuals may not know how to listen well and talk clearly to each other or know how to match communication strategies to the needs of different relatives. Or relatives may live far apart.

Unrelated Problems

Individuals within a family may be dealing with difficult situations that are totally separate from the illness of their elder. Family members may be under stress or in crisis from a situation such as unemployment, impending divorce or treatment of some other degenerative disease or terminal illness.


Sometimes family members feel guilty about using volunteers or hiring helpers to assist at home. They feel even more guilty about relying on a residential care program, such as an adult congregate living facility of a nursing home, where their elder lives under the constant care and supervision of others.

Feelings of guilt in a family member may result from their own sense of failure. No matter how hard they worked and persistent they were in caring for their loved one, they could not slow down the decline or work a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Acting Out Feelings

Sometimes family members act demanding or hostile toward those who are paid to care for their loved one. They may complain about small details, are never satisfied with any efforts and make humiliating remarks about everything in sight.

Available from ElderCare Online™                2000 Prism Innovations, Inc.